Liz Ahl

The E-Mail's Down

The e-mail's down--we don't know what to do--
our autopilot fingers itch and ache.
The missives in the ether can't get through,

and we're twitchier than meth-heads huffing glue
from the sad lung of a dirty paper sack.
The e-mail's down. We don't know what to do

when a sudden freed-up gust of time blows through
our dumbstruck offices. Too much to take!
The missives in the ether can't get through.

For hours now, we haven't had a clue,
we couldn't realize we'd caught a break
from e-mail's drowning. What are we to do

when finally we're given even two
completely wireless minutes? We're a wreck.
The missives in the ether can't get through.

I tried to send this villanelle to you.
I wrote it in the silent, scary wake
with email down, and nothing else to do--
not even rhyming pixels could get through.

The Classics

"I got invited to a toga party! That's my kind of party."
--a student

None of my students picked the Hopkins poem
when we discussed how sound brings lines to life.
Instead, they chose to explicate the moans
of the more contemporary poem, rife
with sexy puns and breathy enjambments.
I pitch the classics, but I am denied.
Still, I think they get how sound makes sense.
After class, I amble back outside
and overhear a student's gleeful news
about a party invitation. This
small scrap of gossip whisks away my blues,
and cures my mood like whiskey or a kiss.
It's a damn good day to be alive.
It's nice to hear the classics still survive.

My Papers

--in response to Arizona's SB1070

I sing my rights to live and be. You sold them.
You find my skin suspicious, ask to see
my papers--so I carefully unfold them.

They're ancient, so be gentle when you hold them.
These Gospels say compassion sets us free.
They sing my rights to live and be. You sold them

out to hate and fear, but I still hold them
holy. What other documents might be
the papers you need? Just ask, and I'll unfold them.

The Bill of Rights? Our country wasn't old when
we wrote the Constitution to decree
a person's rights to live and be. We hold them

self-evident. I offer them, but you scold them.
You say these papers don't apply to me,
but when you ask for proof, I still unfold them

and they are like a flag unfurled. Emboldened,
I claim the space these papers built for me.
                        I sing my rights to live and be. Don't hold them
                        like crumpled paper in your hands. Unfold them.

Medusa, On Winter

In winter, all the world is locked in place,
as cold brings down its hammer on the land.
The shepherds keep their goats penned up in barns,
and storms blow snow that's fine and white as sand.
In winter, all the wanderers stay home
and crouch before their fires to keep warm;
and on the barren roads I'm free to roam
and worry less that I might do grave harm.
The winter is the midnight of the year,
when all the world is frozen statue-still.
The north wind blows a harsher curse than mine,
and doesn't mourn the world it stunts and kills.
There's something in me that this season soothes:
in winter, I'm the only thing that moves.


Liz Ahl is the author of the chapbooks Talking About the Weather (Seven Kitchens Press, 2012), Luck (Pecan Grove Press, 2010), and A Thirst That's Partly Mine, which won the 2008 Slapering Hol Press chapbook contest. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Measure, Blast Furnace, Crab Orchard Review, and Conclave. Luck was the recipient of the 2012 New Hampshire Literary Awards "Reader's Choice" award in poetry. Ahl has been awarded residencies at Jentel, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and the Vermont Studio Center. She lives in Holderness, New Hampshire, and is a professor of English at Plymouth State University. Read or hear more of her work at lizahl.wordpress.com


Liz Ahl
Shaune Bornholdt
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>Mezzo Cammin featured in VIDA: Women in Literary Arts

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>The Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project Turns 50--with Emily Dickinson

>The Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project at Lincoln Center, Friday, April 11th, 7-9 PM. Rhina Espaillat, Angela O'Donnell, Erica Dawson, Maryann Corbett, and others.

Author Erica Jong
Marion Ettlinger: I was raised in Queens, New York, the daughter of German-Jewish immigrants. I was educated at The High School of Music & Art and The Cooper Union, both in Manhattan. Shortly after graduation, I moved to Northern Vermont, where I lived for seventeen years. Although I have been practicing portraiture since the Sixties, it was in the early Eighties that I found my true vocation in photographing poets and writers, who as subjects remain compelling and irresistible to me still. Using only natural light and black and white film, I continue this work based in Manhattan.
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